Category Archives: Wine Tasting

Not Just Sauv, Part 1.

nz hearts

The biggest bore of working in a wine lounge is the knowing that our wine list could happily survive on seven wines. New Zealand knows what it does best, and it drinks what it does best- its the whole eggs in one basket situation we’ve got going on, a straight up shitload of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. But not to get too gloomy over our national wine glory, these wines are premium- new classics even- and wee old NZ deserves all the international recognition it gets, applauded for the rapid adoption of uniquely ‘NZ’ characteristics (cat-piss is one of them) that many countries take centuries to create. But really- just  like how no one wants pb sammies everyday for lunch, no one wants to drink those two wines day in, day out, even when they don’t taste like piss.

Thankfully for us, there is no reason to look afar for international varieties (which includes paying for your bottle to fly business class) when winemakers here are broadening their horizons and producing new wines of premium quality that really can excite. New Zealand may not boast the history,  size or variety of climates that other leaders in wine may have, and our maritime climate meant that even in this summer of drought rain threatened the last of the 2013 harvest, but lets just go ahead and pull out the old ‘big things come in small packages’ cliche- because nothing could be closer to the truth. NZ has the innate ability to constantly produce the cleanest, crispest wines in the world, and if I got started on the people, well, you’d scroll down a little then give up completely. So in brief- unbound by law, let loose by technology, driven by passion, pushing the envelope of innovation- there is no stopping the storm of wine  that the people of the long white cloud can present to the world

Todays wines education begins in a small corner of France, Alsace- The aromatic capital of the world,.Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat make up the Nobel Alsatian comradeship speaks of everything New Zealand wine is not- pretty, floral, aromatic, big and sometimes a  little bit sweet. The four managed to weasel themselves in some time ago, and in classic NZ fashion, have now created a style of their own.

My most recent, beloved and adored (consumed) discovery is the Tupari Dry Riesling, and if you can get your hands on the 2010, grab it and run. Tupari  is kiwi through and through- so fucking crisp. And the notes have everything right with riesling- fresh citrus and complex, but balanced minerality. Who would’ve thought wet stones would be so dang tasty. You wouldn’t call Tupari dry ‘inoffensive’ (sup Pinot Gris) and you wouldn’t say it has mass appeal- but that is Riesling, and  its great to see Marlborough giving something new a push. In my book of the devoted Riesling fiend, Tupari Dry Riesling is a total success. If you have the balls, give it a spin.

Pinot Gris just isn’t going to be discussed, its the 4th most planted variety in New Zealand and any wine writer will laugh and tell you  its boring  (but totes delish,  don’t get me wrong)

Back in the day I found Gewurztraminer as difficult to drink as it was to spell. But once the word was under my belt, I was able to advance from the sickly sweet 12 banger bargain bins and appreciate the god of floral and spice. Sweet has never been my jam, but its hard not to appreciate the perfumed intensity a singular grape can conjure up in a glass of Late harvest Alsatian Gewurztraminer, or the layers of aromatic complexity when Noble Rot gets involved- Gewurztraminer is in a league of its own, its liquid gold. A few weeks ago I took a tour of Kumeu River Estate, lead by Michael Brajkovich, M.W (Genius, Genius, Genius) and when it came to the tasting, stacked up against the best chardonnays in New Zealand , the 2012 Gewurztraminer (to my absolute shock) stood up to the plate and delivered something I have never experienced before. Turning back the clock to sweetness, in Alsace, the standard late harvest Gewurztraminer can have around 30 grams of residual sugar per litre in the final wine-  hitting sticky sweetness, now compare this back to the Kumeu Gewurzt- where in their first, and at the moment only, batch released had an extended ferment till as low as 5 grams of residual sugar per litre. The sweet wine goes dry.  Magic happens. Bursts of floral on the nose are stand by exoctic fruit and the  sweet spice of ginger, complemented by acidity that holds structure magnificently. Only New Zealand could turn a floral Gewurzt crisp and fresh. and with 200 cases made-you’d want to get in as fast as possible.

milton estate

Milton Estate Winery, Gisborne 

Muscat possesses many personalities, all over the world- sweet, dry, still,  sparkling, From France to Australia, Italy to South Africa. In Alsace, though ‘Nobel’, plantings are becoming increasingly rare. the grape itself isn’t groundbreaking- its flavour notes are best described as ‘grape’ (Eugh), but what producers can do with it, is what counts. One of my favourite expressions of the grape is the Moscato d’Asti, a DOCG of Northern Italy. The Sparkling wine of the Moscato Bianco clone of the grape is sweet and  low in alcohol and on the palate has fruitiness with candied orange overlaid with floral notes. One of my favorite New Zealand producers, James Milton, has made a wonderful bubble in this style- Muskats @ Dawn. Before I start losing it over how much I love this wine lets first note, like all of Miltons wines, everything is hand harvested and bottled on site (snaps for Milton), biodynamically grown (Snaps for Milton), Certified organic (snaps for Milton), Vegan (Snaps for Milton), Clobabs it up with Kate Sylvester for the kickass label (Snaps for Milton, Kate and NZ) and is  fucking delicious on a hot summer afternoon (100 more snaps for Milton). Tropical fruits, blossom floral, held by the fizzle of bubbles, its not too much, nor is it too little.  Milton is one of the many (albeit best) gems to come out of wee Gizzy, and I personally cannot get enough.

Moral of the story- NZ has it going on in more ways than two. I’ve mentioned three, but each harvest brings out more and more exceptional expressions of international varieties, coming from New Zealand’s oldest and reputable producers, to the younger ‘Garagistes’ with an eye for innovation, that are giving our superstars a run for their money.

line up- not just sauv 1

Get Some-

Tupari Dry Riesling, through glengarrywines.co.nz , $24

Kumeu River Gewurztraminer 2012, at the moment, you can only get it at their gorgeous Cellar Door, $35

Muskats @ Dawn 2012 by Milton, at the Gisbrone Cellar Door, Online at Milton.co.nz or Pretty much Everywhere in NZ, $22

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Grapes of Gatsby

Last night signalled the end of like a three hundred year hype for The Great Gatsby. Carpet rolled, suits donned and popping bottles. I’m not one to wank on about ‘life of the rich and famous’, but The Great Gatsby is a work like no other, and F. Scott Fitzgerald is probably history’s most successful alcoholic, so I feel like an event like this deserves the E! style coverage I’ve got going on about now. but before I dig into the bubbles any further, let us first all appreciate this….

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One picture instantly validates it as the best party in the world.

Fitzgerald and booze are no strangers, and the drink followed him closely during his short existence, in his 20s introducing himself as “F. Scott Fitzgerald, the well-known alcoholic”, writing the compilation On Booze and living the Champagne drenched lifestyle of his social status.

So it was no surprise to find the premier both lavish and booze fuelled like the 1920s of my dreams. But champagne? not the nights superstar. Instead the toxin of choice came in the form of Ferrari Metodo Classico, a Methode Traditionelle from Alto Adige, Northern Italy. Made 100% from the Chardonnay grape (one of the three main components in Champagne), lemon, apple and floral notes are light and crisp, and notes of yeast delicate, its restrained compared to the bakery of champagne, and I’m literally salivating.

Ferrari is the it  tipple for the more cultured – think the Venice film festival and Prada. Thank the lord. Its probably the most refreshing thing not to see such Hollywood acts of poppin’ bottles of Moët & Chandon and throwing their money around. A new, and not inferior, bubble is nice, as is the price tag (you can get the Ferrari Metodo NV for $30). yes. please. 

Baz, I raise a glass to you.

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A Touch of Italy distributes Ferrari Metodo Brut NV, find it here

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My Mate Red

Pink, Salmon, Purple, Ruby, Garnet, Tawny. Pale, Medium, Deep.
Red is the whole package.

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Ode to Riesling

bad things to you‘The Dork of Wine’ is the harsh but too true label that the wine world has labelled Riesling- like its sitting alone in the school playground. In the past, I’ve been a total bully- preferring my citrus from my Sauvignon and Stone fruit from my Chardonnay, but with all of my new lovers, I’ve uncovered a diamond in the rough and a passion for (albeit super fucking expensive) a good glass of Riesling- give it to me from Classic Germany or Premium Australia- I’ll love it with gusto.

Aromatic, fruity and floral, Riesling responds well to soils and climates that produce different flavors so distinctly that even within villages, vineyards have each their own ‘stamp’ on the varietal. With an acidity and potential for sweetness that causes an incredible ability to age- trying Rieslings across the board can assure that no experience is the same- all the more reason to start drinking it, and never really stop. It’d be rude not to really.

If there ever is a place to start a love affair, its in France. My (to date) favorite Riesling comes from hot and dry Alsace, bordering Germany and protected by mountains, the love potion comes from producer Domaine Bott Geyl’s 2010 Elements – tropical with spice and zest it was lengthy, super complex, ageing wonderfully and left me absolutely weak at the knees. taaaaasty.

Even with spotlight on the ‘Dork’, that’s not to say she cant be a bitch. A bad amount of acidity and sweetness can cause her to age with a nasty air of kerosene. So to be safe- she’s not one to risk pulling out when it dates back to “the good old days”, unless you sniff petrol, and that’s just a tidge not okay.

But back on track, and a final sign off in my proclamation of love- do try it. I’m not one to be selfish now- and whether its a classy half glass or bottle of otp, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Love ya Ries, ex oh ex oh.

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Jeres-Xres-Sherry

HARDCOREHOUSEWIFE

Today was my first introduction to Sherry and Port, drinks I never thought I’d touch until I was on microwave meals and needed something to get me through my knitting. Sherry, in my eyes, is a tipple in the arena of grandmas.
Old and adopted by the English fortified wine may be, but it has balls bigger than what you need to watch Coro, fortified wine = added spirits (juices from the Marc varietal), added spirits= more alcohol, plus with up to 100 years to go crazy with flavor and complexity, she sure packs quite a punch.

Jerez de la Frontera in the South of Spain is the ‘spiritual home’ of Sherry, and the common association of British origins comes from a long winded history of traders finding new markets to buy and sell alcohol throughout Europe, once french regained rule of Bordeaux in 1453. Now over 500 years later, wine making estates in Douro, Portugal, the home of Port, is sweet wee England’s home away from home, boarding at Eton, club sammies, the whole shabam #historylesson.

The tasting was not unlike many a childhood Halloween when I came to the last of my goods, to be faced with the task of finishing the ‘bad’ candy (as fast as possible, naturally), sickly sweet and syrupy would do the experience as a whole very nicely, but thankfully it had its merits.

Three Sherries, one region, a whole lotta booze.

The Manzanilla was up first, a style characterised by its ageing of the Palomino grape, with the solera process feat yeast. Yes yeast, not even removed, just stirred through and renamed flor, cause foreign is sexy, duh. Funnily enough, bread was the first thing to waft up the nostrils and take over the mouth, with citrus, savory and almond notes to go, I’ll go ahead and call it an acquired taste.

Next up was the booze hag of the bunch, Amontillado (up to 20% abv), the above plus spirits, killing off the yeast and bringing out raisins, almonds, walnuts, butterscotch and caramel aromas, which all in all, smelt like Christmas cake, Booze Hag edition. It tasted a lot more refined, nutty and savory, with dryness and acidity that lifted the wine from what could have been a syrupy disaster, the Amontillado was complex and interesting, plus 100% drinkable (bonus).

Pedro Ximenes (PX) was, through trial and tribulation, the pick of the bunch, black intense fruits and super sweet, taste number one was only encouraged by a sniff the slightest sniff of coffee within the madness. But fkya nose, the palate didn’t follow through, instead engulfing my mouth in a maple syrup drenched prune syrup. That said, it was nice, but enthusiasm and gulping cannot be trusted -back to the Halloween antidote- too much candy is a RL issue.

Whoever has been told that eating more chocolate wont make their problems go away can cheer for joy for PX, a mouth full of bitter chocolate (!!) and a secondary, more cautious, taste opened up my first mind blowing (I know, I know) experience of food matching. The syrup spun to velvet, prunes thrown to the curb and toffee down the drain, a bitter bite brought out velvety coconut, walnut and cherries, no more words can be said other than heaven

(and pour it over vanilla ice cream, I’m gaining faith in labels)

All wines produced by Lustau, Jenez, Spain.

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